Buzz Summer Camp Directory

Five picks for March

Cindy Burnett
Click the Buzz Me button to receive email notifications when this writer publishes a new article or a new article in this column is published.

WHAT TO READ This month’s selections include two memoirs, one on processing grief and the other one focused on identity, a start to a new mystery series starring a neurodivergent character, a compelling mystery set in Ireland, and a historical-fiction book about Frances Perkins, the first woman to serve as a U.S. cabinet member. (Photo: Cindy Burnett)

Buzz Reads is a column about books by reviewer Cindy Burnett. Each month, Cindy recommends five recently or soon-to-be released titles.

Becoming Madam Secretary by Stephanie Dray (historical fiction) – Stephanie Dray brings to life Frances Perkins, the first woman to serve as a U.S. cabinet member. Appointed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt as Secretary of Labor, she is the mother of Social Security and helped create and launch FDR’s New Deal. Becoming Madam Secretary is an enthralling story about a woman who would not be cowed by the men around her and who paved the way for future women to serve in high-powered government positions. I loved learning so much about her and her role as Secretary of Labor, her professional relationship with FDR, and the time period following the Depression. Dray includes an Author’s Note detailing what small things changed for narrative flow purposes. I highly recommend this one.

The Framed Women of Ardemore House by Brandy Schillace (mystery/thriller) – Following the loss of her mother, her job, and her marriage, American Jo Jones heads to North Yorkshire to live in the family estate, one that she did not know existed but that she inherited when her mother died. While she has always struggled to fit in with other people, in the United Kingdom, she is not sure which makes her stand out more: being American or her neurodivergence. When a body is discovered in her cottage soon after she arrives, Jo realizes that she is in danger –  personally, and because she is now a suspect. Schillace skillfully and authentically portrays a character on the spectrum and how her characteristics help solve the mystery as well as how she is perceived by others. This provides such an interesting glimpse into what life is like for Jo and those with whom she interacts. This is a start to a series, and I am already looking forward to book 2.

The Hunter by Tana French (mystery/thriller) – Tana French returns with a stunning mystery set in a small town in Ireland. Cal Hooper, a retired Chicago police officer, moved to west Ireland to build furniture and enjoy a peaceful life. While there, he has become a mentor to a troubled and angry teenager named Trey whose family has been struggling since her brother died and her dad Johnny abandoned them. However, when Johnny unexpectedly returns, accompanied by a wealthy friend, and the duo claims there is gold in the nearby Irish hills, the town is turned upside down. French’s strong sense of place and authentic characters carry the story, and the themes of revenge, family, love, and what people will do to protect their families are powerfully portrayed. The story is beautifully written, a character-driven tale versus a fast-paced one, and readers will be swept into the lives of the town’s residents as well as the book’s strong setting. While this is a follow-up to her last novel The Searcher, The Hunter can easily be read as a standalone, which I personally did.

I Promise It Won’t Always Hurt Like This by Clare Mackintosh (memoir/nonfiction)I Promise It Won't Always Hurt Like This is a survival guide for anyone who has lost a loved one. The book is structured around 18 assurances on grief in simple-to-digest sections which can be read individually because when someone is knee-deep in grieving, it can be hard to focus for very long. Esteemed and bestselling thriller-writer Clare Mackintosh lost her five-week-old son 18 years ago and quickly realized that grief doesn’t often follow the neatly labeled stages that books frequently suggest it does. Everyone grieves differently, and for the author, there was no preparing for the anger, guilt, overwhelming sadness, sleeplessness, pain of anniversaries, and other issues she experienced following the loss of her son. As someone who has experienced significant loss in the last couple of years, this book spoke to me in a way no other book has, validating the emotions and sadness that I still regularly endure. I highly recommend it for anyone who has personally suffered a loss and could use a realistic roadmap for how to move forward.

Whiskey Tender by Deborah Jackson Taffa (memoir) – This starkly honest and poignant memoir chronicles Taffa’s experiences growing up in the 1970s and 1980s while navigating the sharp disconnect between mainstream culture and her own native identity as a mixed tribe Native girl – born on the California Yuma reservation and reared in Navajo territory in New Mexico. With grandparents who, as citizens of the Quechan Nation and Laguna Pueblo tribe, were sent to Indian boarding schools run by white missionaries and parents who participated in governmental job training off the reservation, she grew up with the message that assimilation was the path to pursue. But when she reached adulthood, she began to question whether assimilating really accomplished the goals her family thought it did. The strength of the book is how Taffa blends her own personal narrative and family history with general Native American history and Native American history pertaining to the American southwest as well as Native movements in the U.S. to reclaim Native lands, culture, and history. I read this book in less than a day and learned so much; her story is one I will not soon forget.

Editor’s note: Southside Place resident Cindy Burnett also writes our weekly Page Turners column. She hosts the Thoughts from a Page Podcast, is co-creator of the Houston literary event series Conversations from the Page, runs the Instagram account @thoughtsfromapage, and regularly speaks to groups about books.

To leave a comment, please log in or create an account with The Buzz Magazines, Disqus, Facebook, or Twitter. Or you may post as a guest.